The Way Forward

The Health and Microfinance Alliance constituted by the Microcredit Summit Campaign and Freedom from Hunger has been making efforts in India to create an enabling environment towards integrating microfinance and health programme through financial service providers such as MFI and SHG-serving NGOs. MFIs and SHGs reach more than 90 million clients in India, many of whom are poor women. The rationale for integration of financial and health products and services, suitability of technology and know-how and challenges of up-scaling or replication on a larger scale based on the lessons of experiments undertaken were ably analysed in the first state of the field report published in 2012. The authors of this report have now prepared a second report to further inform and advocate for broader recognition by stakeholders and policy makers on the opportunity for improving access to health services using the very large channel that MFIs and SHGs offer to also reach poor families with simple but important health and nutrition interventions in a cost-effective manner. The current volume presents an unbiased picture of the evolution of the microfinance sector in India (MFIs and SHGs), its growth and challenges, as well as the ongoing challenges that face our nation in providing equitable access to all Indians to quality health services. The justification for a closer look and development of microfinance as a platform for health education and healthcare access has been presented with appropriate evidence along with an agenda for how to further develop this opportunity. The Government of India as a major provider of health and livelihood development services, the Reserve Bank of India, NABARD and other policymaking and regulatory institutions will find this volume useful and interesting as they continue to consider and re-define priorities and design programmes directed at poverty alleviation, sustainable income generation and universal health care. At the same time, the health sector may find much in here to consider with respect to the potential for expanding their capacity to reach the most underserved families. Finally, the financial services sector will find the case studies and lessons learned here by others to be exceptionally useful for consideration of how to strengthen their role in financial inclusion, increased productivity and more effective asset formation by poor clients for a winwin situation for them as well as their clients. The distinguished authors of this study deserve kudos for bringing out this publication. I am hopeful that this volume will be the harbinger of more such research in future.

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